GPU slams parliament for unilateral decision

Sep 17, 2020, 11:24 AM | Article By: Momodou Jawo

Mustapha Mbye, head of Ethics Committee of the Gambia Press Union (GPU) has made it clear that the decision from the parliament on Monday to choose only three media houses to cover the assembly sittings and bar others was “unilateral”, arguing that parliament should not take any decisions that divide people.

“The GPU was not consulted about the parliament decision to bar some journalists from covering the sitting. In fact, the way other media houses were allowed especially the private media houses is unacceptable, because it creates discrimination and creates division among journalists.”

Mr. Mbye was speaking yesterday during a press conference at the GPU. He said: “Parliament should not take any decision that divides any member of the society including us journalists. We are not happy about the decision because it divides us and we hope that the parliament rescinds their decision.”

Dozens of Gambian journalists were on Monday barred from entry into the National Assembly as parliamentarians began debating the draft new constitution that was tabled for the first reading by the Minister of Justice. Security personnel at the entrance of the National Assembly allowed only GRTS, QTV and Eye Africa.   

The parliament, Mr. Mbye said, is a supreme legislative arm of the government that should prohibit discrimination. “Our members are trained and are taking precautions from getting infected from the disease. We will appreciate the parliament to help our members from getting covid-19 but not in this way.”

He added: “There are a lot of things that the parliament can do for journalists in this country and we all know that. There are laws that protect us from doing what we are supposed to do; hence we want the parliament to work on that first. We are calling on the parliament to work on laws that will enhance our work as journalists rather than protecting us from covid-19.” 

In any civilised democracy, he went on, the press and the legislature work together to strengthen democracy. “So, if parliament is doing this to the press, then it means it’s a lost opportunity for the press and parliament to come together so that we ensure sanity prevails in the governance structure of this country.”

Sheriff Bojang Jnr, the president of the Union said GPU was never consulted either directly or indirectly over the parliamentary decision to bar some journalists from entering parliament.

“I believe if the parliament is to come with such a decision, there should have been some consultations and meetings or even inform some stakeholders, media chiefs and the GPU about the development prior to Monday sitting. We felt this was an obligation to the parliament or anybody who wanted to take such a decision to inform people and negotiate.”

‘The parliament director of communications clearly told me that the decision of the parliament was purely and 100% on health ground due to the pandemic. He told me that even the sitting arrangement of parliamentarians in the flow has been changed to give room to brotherly social distancing because they don’t want to congest the flow.’

Sheriff Bojang added: “Even in this covid-19, we have seen countries, Italy, which is among the epicentres of the disease and in hospitals where people were dying week in and week out but journalists were allowed in because it was not the role of the health authorities to say journalists can’t be allowed because we are protecting them. In this case, it’s not the role of the National Assembly to protect journalists from getting infected.”

The speaker of the house, he continued, confirmed fully that this is in no way a policy or a decision to stop the press, adding that GPU will not call for a boycott but will stand in solidarity with media houses or journalists that want to boycott the parliament.

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